Mrs. Verona Elizabeth Dixon McIlwain Vaughn
Verona Elizabeth Dixon McIlwain Vaughn, 81 was born June 25, 1927 to the late James and Ruthella Dixon in Reiglewood, N.C. She was the 13th child of 14 children, being born on her brother Levies’ 16th birthday.
Most of Verona’s siblings were grown when she came along, so she was raised with her nieces and nephews. Because she was the baby girl, she was affectionately called “Aunt Bae” by the family. Verona was educated in the schools in East Archadia, N.C.
After graduating from high school, Verona moved to Charlotte to attend Johnson C. Smith University, where she met, fell in love and married the late Louis Q. McIlwain. To this union five children were born; her oldest two, Louis Jr. and Brenda, preceded her in death.
Everybody loved her warm smile and big heart. She was always taking in family members, helping them get started or just being that extra Mom they may have needed. Verona not only opened her home to family but to everybody she met.
She loved cooking and entertaining. Her home was a place where people loved to come and fellowship — the many cookouts in her backyard and family times around the kitchen table will always be remembered. She always said you should never have just enough for yourself, because you never know when someone else might need a helping hand. Verona also loved playing Scrabble, which you could find her playing on any given Friday or Sunday evening.
When her husband Louis passed, she knew that she had to depend on her faith, her family and her community to help her rear her five children all alone. Her father came to Charlotte to take her back home, but she insisted, “Papa I can do this,” and she did.
She was a proud mother, and wanted to make sure that her children had the best education, and she made sure by becoming active in the PTA and served on several committees. Everyone knew Mrs. McIlwain and her children.
While working as a domestic worker to support her family, Mrs. Gwendolyn Cunningham, the principal at Double Oaks Elementary School, noticed how hard Mrs. McIlwain worked and her dedication to being the best. She recommended her for a job as a field worker to the director of the Westside Neighborhood Service Center. Verona loved people, and this job was perfect because it allowed her to find out the needs of the people and assist them in receiving those needs.
Later this agency became known as the Charlotte Area Fund. She held several positions, but I believe her favorite was as an Employment Counselor. This position allowed her to encourage young people to stay in or go back to school so that they could achieve their dreams.
She was honest and very straight forward. If you didn’t want to hear the truth, you better not ask Verona for her opinion. She was not rude but told you in a very diplomatic way that you determined where and how far
you will go in life.
In 1976 she married the late Willie Haywood Vaughn, to which she added two sons, three daughters and two daughters-in-law. One son, George, preceded her in death.
Verona loved God and her family first and foremost. She joined Greater Gethsemane when she married Louis and made sure that her children attended and participated in everything that children could participate in at church.
She was a member of the Usher Board, serving as President for several years. She was a Bible Scholar, and her love for learning made her an avid Sunday School student and teacher. Verona accepted the position of Sunday School Superintendent and served in that position for over 10 years.
Becoming involved in the Lay Council, Verona realized that God was calling her to be of service to more than just Gethsemane. She became the Charlotte District Lay Council President and helped build this area of the A.M.E. Zion Church.
She was excited about learning and training the Lay of the church about their church. Verona often traveled to the conferences with Mr. & Mrs. Lem Long, Jr. They would be everywhere, Eddie, Lem, Lula and Verona – you could always find them going up and down the highways excited about Zion.
Verona would bring back a vast amount of information to share with her church about what we as Laymen can do to build up the kingdom of God through Zion. Verona envisioned helping others through education and suggested that the Lay Council have an avenue to assist students attending Livingstone College.
The M. L. Greene Scholarship Fund was established, and Verona wanted to have a way of presenting these scholarships to the recipients in a celebratory manner, thus the M. L. Green Scholarship Breakfast was started. Because of her leadership and loyalty, she was honored over the years by the Lay Council.
Hearts were saddened when she decided to give up this position, but she knew it was time to move on to God’s next plan for her life. Just because she was retired, she still allowed God to use her in her church. Verona asked her pastor to allow her to start a Seniors’ group and he did, which brought about the Pearls of Wisdom.
Now known as the Leaves of Gold, this group has attended plays, visited the Billy Graham Library, gone on lunch cruises on the Catawba Queen, and held an annual picnic, just to mention a few things. They have enjoyed the fellowship and thanked Verona for her vision of this group allowing them to be active and still a viable part of the fellowship of God.
Verona also saw the need to re-establish the Home Mission Department at Gethsemane. She organized several programs one of which was a play that she wrote for Black History Month, and had a dinner theatre production to raise funds for the Home Mission. This was very successful and people wanted her to do it again, but she said that she had to wait on God to give her the vision.
Not even sickness could keep her from doing the work of the Lord. From her hospital bed she directed the last program for the Home Mission which was 100 Women In Red. Verona was very pleased at the phone calls and visits she received telling her about the wonderful program.
Verona shared her time, talent and passion for her church through her service as a member of the Trustee Board until her husband’s health began to decline. Even while caring for her husband she never stopped serving God through her love and dedication.
Verona served under the leadership of the late presiding Elder Frank Murphy Allen, the present Bishop George E. Battle Jr., Dr. David R. Baker, Presiding Elder Calvin Miller, and the current pastor, the Rev. C. Franklin Tillett Jr.
She loved her pastors and supported them all. When Rev. Battle came to Gethsemane, being such a young man, Verona saw a greatness in him and fostered a special relationship and bond that continued between them even until this very moment. She worked tirelessly to help make sure that he was elected a Bishop of the A.M.E. Zion Church. She loved Bishop, and he loved her, and they always kept in contact even though he was no longer her pastor.
Mrs. Vaughn retired from the Charlotte Area Fund after 30-plus years of service in 1995. She retired to help care for her newest grandson, Darius, which lasted only 10 months. She announced that he was more than she could keep up with and went back to work at the Urban Ministry. She worked until Mr. Vaughn’s health required her to be at home.
Mrs. Vaughn is survived by her son, Ronald McIlwain; two daughters, Sharon McIlwain, and Jennifer McIlwain Lockhart; daughter-in-law, Annie B. McIlwain; her extended Vaughn children, son, Willie Jr. (Emma); three daughters, Eveline(Roy) Stewart, Mary Sloan, and Emma(Ronald)McIlwain; one daughter-in-law, Mary Vaughn; one brother, Levie Dixon; one sister, Amy Mabel Young; three sisters-in-law, Marie Dixon, Ann Dixon, and Barbara McIlwain; three grandsons, DeFonza McIlwain, Dr. Charlton(Raechel)McIlwain and Darius Lockhart; one son-in-law, Roosevelt Lockhart Jr.; one great-grandson, Marcus Adam McIlwain and a host of grand and great-grandchildren from her Vaughn Family.
She is also survived by a host of nieces and nephews whom she loved so dearly, her godchildren, Onitra Roberson and Kenny Roberson, and a special friend Curtis Hunter. She also leaves her wonderful church family and special friends, Yvonne Hudson, Lula Watson, Sadie Barksdale, Nancy Giles, Margaret Cooper, Gene Pharr, Willie and Rita Gabriel, and her neighbor Luvenia Smith.
Mrs. Vaughn, who was affectionately called “Ms. V” by friends, was a wonderful woman and will be missed by everyone who met her. Her son summed it up best:
“You touched the lives and hearts of a lot of people, and you did things, had things, and saw places that your Mother and Father never dreamed of seeing. So, for a sweet country girl, from a small country town, you did good Mom, you did good…
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